Ali Baba is an honest man. He has a family that he cherishes and a job that he enjoys. When he has a suspicious customer in his autorickshaw who over pays for his fare, Ali Baba feels that it is his duty to stop the man and give him his change back. Plus Ali is a little curious on what the man is up to. To his surprise he discovers that the man is part of a gang of forty thieves who have just stolen a large amount of gold. While he does manage to hide from the crooks, his curiosity and the fact that he overhead the password to the gold’s vault gets the better of him. He helps himself to some gold and tries to keep it all a secret, but is unable to stop his noisy sister-in-law and is greedy brother from learning about it. This spins into action a twisted turn of events where Ali and his son are taken advantage of in the quest for revenge from the gang’s mastermind.
I am not a big fan of turning classics into graphic novels. Too often I find them to be still too wordy and the graphics adding little to the plot. On the flip side, I love retellings. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Reloaded is a retelling of one of the classic stories from the Arabian Nights collection of stories. It is part of The Campfire Graphic Novels Originals Series which is distributed by Random House. Campfire describes their books as being edgy and exciting stories that parents, teachers, and librarian will approve. When you take a tale that involves 40 villains you expect it to be a bit violent, but Campfire handled it perfectly with very little gratuitous bloodshed. I will admit that I very much enjoyed this retelling and found it to be just right when it came down to the amount of narration and character dialogue compared to what was the graphic driven parts.
This version of Ali Baba takes place in Mumbai, India. It may at first seem like Campfire is taking the easy road by not setting the tale in Iran, which is where it is believed the Arabian Nights stories originated. However, the author page at the back of the book explains that the author, Poulomi Mukherjee, grew up in India with bedtimes stories woven from myths and folktales like the Arabian Nights. So it make perfect sense that her version of this Arabian Nights tale would take place close to home. Indian folklore and the Arabian Nights stories do share some similarities.
The graphics are also wonderful, with a modern appeal that will please tween and teen audiences. My favorite scene from the book is when Marjeena, the book’s true hero, dances her forty blades dance. One frame is used with almost transparent copies of the character in the background demonstrating how she hypnotically sways and moves as she dances, mesmerizing her audience. While this book does deal in part with death, it is not disturbingly so and may be appropriate for a younger audience as long as they are prepared for such an issue.
Included in the back of the book is a brief history of the original Arabian Nights tales and their connection to Indian Folklore as well as a definition of a Frame Story, which is the technique used in Arabian Nights of interconnecting a series of tales within a larger story. This volume will make a great addition to your graphic novel collection especially for readers who enjoyed retellings like Rapunzel’s Revenge or even for those who aren’t quite ready for more violent graphic novels but still want something with a little suspense and action.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Reloaded
by Poulomi Mukherjee
Art by Amit Tayal
Campfire , 2011